While most of BlogDH’s content focuses on Brown (and RISD), we acknowledge it doesn’t take an on-campus event to send this community reeling. This special edition of our “What we’re reading” column aims to provide students with a roundup of the coverage of the recent issues in Baltimore, Maryland that we found particularly enlightening, as we did with articles on the events in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this year.
If you are new to the topic, The Atlantic provides a concise, thought-provoking summary on what we know to have happened to Freddie Gray. Gray was arrested on April 12th when he made eye contact with a cop and ran away. On April 19th, he died of a spinal injury that was not present before his time in custody. As of this morning, the Maryland state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, charged 6 Baltimore officers in Freddie Gray’s death. The details on how this injury was sustained have not been unveiled. You can watch a video of the initial arrest here, and you can also read about the extensive record of police brutality in Baltimore (5.7 million dollars worth of lawsuits sxtince 2011) through this Baltimore Sun expose on undue force.
On Monday, a funeral was held for Gray. A few hours later, some of the protests turned into riots, and the National Guard was called in. Major news outlets have worked with the angle that the violence of the protests was premeditated. Many of you probably saw the headline, “Rival gang leaders agree to come together to take out police officers.” However, MotherJones, through on-site interviews at Mondawmin Mall, catalogues a different story. In “The Baltimore Riots Didn’t Start the Way You Think,” witnesses account a scene where police, in full riot gear, prevented many children from returning home from school, and using traffic barricades, potentially escalated the situation themselves.
The Independent covers one of the many interviews where a Baltimore civilian, in response to questions on the morality of this violence, wonders where the media was during the plentiful peaceful protests that occurred before the rioting. “Why does it take a catastrophe like this in order for America to hear our cry?” Indeed, it seems like the entire country has flocked virtually around Baltimore, to throw in their two cents on the efficacy of non-peaceful protest. On Twitter, the COO of the Baltimore Orioles took the time to draw the conversation away from the ‘rioting’, and focused on the systematic struggles that have brought Baltimore to the breaking point. If you want to read more about Baltimore’s history, and get some much-needed context, read the Marshall Project’s interview with David Simon.
On the topic of violence and non-violence, two pieces from The Atlantic offer alternate views on Baltimore’s predicament. While Conor Friedersdorf insists that the justice system demands that accountability be served to both rioters and police officers (notably, while acknowledging that the latter is not being talked about nearly enough), Ta-Nehisi Coates equates peace with surrender to the system, a system that provides no answers to the injustices it perpetuates. “When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse.”
Unlike the coverage above, CNN seems to have lost itself in a sea of sensationalism. Jon Stewart called out Wolf Blitzer for expressing shock that these riots were “going on in a major American city”… even though he reported on Ferguson at the end of 2014. Another CNN interview went awry when Blitzer continuously asked Deray McKesson to condemn those who took part in property destruction, despite McKesson asserting that Blitzer, in pushing aside the police violence that provoked these riots, was “suggesting this idea that broken windows are worse than broken spines.” For a nuanced read on how America defines the word violence, and who that word targets, read this piece from November on Black Girl Dangerous, by Mia McKenzie.
Since the protests erupted this week, a popular activist was taken by the police after curfew, and his whereabouts are currently unknown to the public.
A video interview with Angela Davis from 1972 has been circulating on social media. It can help explain why the community response in Baltimore was to be anticipated.
In another flashback to last fall, here is a compilation of times that violence was an unwarranted, and bizarre, reaction that did not receive extensive media scrutiny because of the perpetrators. It involves a lot of white people being angry and/or happy about sports and pumpkins.
Finally, The Onion is spot on. For more comedically inspired thoughts on the notion of a peaceful protest, see this comic strip from The Nib. Also, everyday feminism reminds white people to stop misquoting MLK, and another nine things that they should consider if they don’t want to be part of the problem.
To read more, see this syllabus on Google Docs. We hope that you will take the time to educate yourself on this pressing matter for our nation.